Are Mushrooms in My Garden Bad?October 12, 2011
All the time — especially in fall and spring — I get asked over and over again if the mushrooms popping up in gardens are harmful. The answer, in general, is that they’re fine.
Actually, the mushroom you see is just the portion of a larger beast that lives throughout the soil all the time. When you see a mushroom form, the fungi is in the process of reproducing itself by spitting out spores that will eventually become new mushrooms nearby.
Now, to be clear, there are times when seeing the fruiting bodies of fungi (aka the mushrooms) is a warning sign that something not so good is going on. For instance, if shelf fungus forms on a tree, its time (or quite likely past time) to bring in an arborist to check on the health of the tree. These fungi begin putting out fruiting bodies when they’ve eaten up much of the tree already. In most cases, fungi goes for organic material already beginning to die or decay, but when it goes for living plants, that plant is likely on its way out.
And, just because a mushroom isn’t doing damage to your garden doesn’t mean it won’t do damage to you or your pets if you decide to nibble on them. I won’t even begin to try to tell you how to tell an edible mushroom from a toxic one.
Fungi comes in all sorts of forms from wiggly jelly cups to puff balls to cascading beards to varieties that eat and grow over other mushrooms to barfy looking technicolor piles to the traditional forms we all (pretty much) recognize from the grocery store. And, yes, there are many more forms as well. But, knowing which are edible and which are not is a deadly game if you aren’t trained. So, unless you’re absolutely certain you know what you’re picking, don’t even think about eating them. Some will make you sick right away; others can take days to destroy your internal organs – permanently. Even it if looks like a squirrel already nibbled on a ‘shroom cap in the garden, don’t think that means you can eat it!
If patches of mushrooms are popping up in your garden beds or your lawn, odds are they’re not doing any damage. If you enjoy seeing them appear, know they’ll probably disappear just as quickly after they spread their spore and go back to growing underground as mycelium where they live all the time. And as they’re growing, they’re helping process toxins, assisting vascular plants in taking up soil water and nutrients, and aiding in the decomposition process that converts decaying material nutrients into forms that your garden plants can use and thrive upon.
Want to learn more about mushrooms and even get to go picking edible varieties with people in the know? Consider joining and taking classes with a local mycological society like Psms.org. Groups like this also often assist communities with identification of mushrooms found in home gardens, and they can provide help should you suspect mushroom poisoning has occurred.